Tuesday, July 3, 2018

What Cain and Abel Tell Us About Who We Really Are

The First Honor Killing

The story of Cain and Abel is often described as the first murder.   I would argue that it is more precisely the first honor killing.   An honor killing occurs when someone loses face or is shamed by another person.   The shamed person then lashes out and kills the person responsible for the shaming.  Cain kills Abel because he comes in second, while he as the first born, thinks he should be first in all things.  God should prefer his offering to Abel's.  It is the natural order of things in his eyes.  Because Abel is elevated, Cain thinks it means that he is diminished.  Removing the person next in line moves you up according to this sinful logic. In the recent attack of a Maryland newspaper office the first press accounts report that the accused had a problem with a news story about him.   If this is correct, then this will be basically an honor killing.


Defending perceived violations of honor can lead to all types of evil, from bullies in the school yard to domestic abusers, the words of Cain are oft repeated again and again.  The victim of violence is discounted, "I'm not my brothers keeper" (biblical slang for "not my problem"), or even blamed, "She had it coming."  In a recent podcast by Malcolm Gladwell a social scientist reported on the data from the spate of "Stand your Ground" laws around the country.   The most affected demographic by the law has been white men.   The scientist reported bar fights and neighborhood squabbles were turning violent as participants stood their ground, grabbed their weapon and sought to protect their honor.

The story of Cain and Abel and the fact that it comes so early in the narrative, right after creation, tells us that we have a dark part of our nature born of weakness.   We can seat our self-worth and being in others deferring to us.  God was supposed to defer to Cain, as was Abel, so Cain in a fit of rage would try to end his perceived shame in a fit of violence and murder.   But much to Cain's chagrin, his shame would only intensify.  One can not heal inner weakness by attacking another more fortunate person.   His pitiful weakness is only intensified by his barbaric actions.   The story of Cain and Abel reminds us to be on guard against the weakness and shame that can destroy us.  Sin is not only lurking at the door for Cain, it lurks for us.

Finding Our True Honor  

This is why the Gospel of Jesus Christ matters.   The core witness of the New Testament teaches us to find our honor not in the deference of others to ourselves, but by the fact we are loved by God.  The gospel proclaims that our personal honor is to seated in the fact that Christ is crucified, died and risen for us.  The identity politics of our day is putting all or nothing bets on whether or not the rest of the world will accept us, defer to us and celebrate us.   But what happens when your tribe loses that bet?

Does my dignity really rest on others praising me?  If our society answers yes to this, then we are nothing but barbarians, the offspring of Cain's cowardice.   If my honor rests in God's grace, then I am free to treat my neighbor with dignity.  The latter is demonstrated to be true in how God treats Cain when God confronts him with his crime.   God treats Cain with dignity.  First, God respects Cain enough to speak the truth to him.  God explains his crimes and the need for justice.  Second, God makes Cain pay a consequence for his crime by removing him from the land, which affirms Cain's agency and therefore his dignity. Third and most importantly, God protects Cain from the vengence of others with no stake in the incident. Genesis 4:15-16 (NRSV) And the Lord put a mark on Cain, so that no one who came upon him would kill him.

Of course, God is God, secure in his honor, one who does not require the praise of men or women. God is free to do what is right.  So we are able to see what might be the way to go forward when we are living in conflicted times.  We are to first be grounded in our dignity as children of God which has been given to us as a gift.   We are to remember that though the world will not always accept, love and celebrate us we have a God who does. 

Knowledge is power, and perhaps with this knowledge we can keep the Cain within us at bay.  For while few of us will kill for a perceived slight of our honor, most if not all of us, have hurt someone for it.  Whether yelling at our kids unjustly, or making fun of someone who holds differing views than we do, the sin of Cain can be manifest in us in all kinds of ways.  We live in a changing world where the culture tells that honor and acceptance are supposed to be found in just about everything but God.  If we do this we are building spiritual houses of straw built on sand.  If we stand in Christ and let him be our honor, our fortress will be impregnable and we will be able to honor and uphold the dignity of all God's children.

Be blessed.
Pastor Knecht





Thursday, May 31, 2018

The Gospel In Word and Service

To Meet the Needs of our Community 

In my lifetime I have seen momentous changes in the church.   There have been changes in how we worship,  who gets to lead congregations, how churches are organized and how we communicate.  What has not changed is the heart of our witness to Jesus Christ.   Christ gives the promise of eternal life and we demonstrate  through our actions that this new reality starts now.   Since the founding of the church at Pentecost, disciples of Jesus share his teachings and make disciples using two main tools, Word and service.

The Word brings the hope we have in God through the Gospel story of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.   We tell the story of Jesus and how the Gospel works in the lives of the people who have opened their hearts to God.   The Word or story of God's saving action for humanity changes hearts, lives and minds.  In fact, the Greek word the New Testament uses for one to open their life to God (μετανοέω), (which is normally translated "repent") means to change one's mind.  Hope changes how we think about things.   The most important thing about this hope is that it strengthens and leads the disciple live out what God calls him or her to do.

Service is living out our call to the glory God and the benefit of others.  The Word states what hope looks like, service makes it tangible and real.   Service is living proof of the truth of the Gospel.  In the book of Acts, which is the biblical blueprint of the church, the Word is always accompanied by service.  The apostles not only speak the Word to persuade, but also work to heal, set free, include, reconcile, advocate for and feed their neighbors.  Both Word and service are vital for the spreading of the Gospel.  A wonderful example of this occurs in acts chapter six, where the apostles open up avenues of service for new people in the early church.

 And the twelve called together the whole community of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should neglect the word of God in order to wait on tables. Therefore, friends, select from among yourselves seven men of good standing, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint to this task, while we, for our part, will devote ourselves to prayer and to serving the word.”Acts 6:2-4 (NRSV)

Acts chapter six shows us that there will be people who are better called to administering the Word and prayer and there are others more equipped for tangible acts of service.   The important thing is to make sure that both are provided for.   An important point to note is that just as individuals will gravitate towards either the Word or service in their faith life so will congregations.

For the first part of my tenure at Holy Cross we were clearly a church that gravitated to toward the Word.   Preaching worship, small groups and VBS were Word centered to bring about changes in hearts and minds.   As we moved through the years the service component became more pronounced, through our food ministry started by one women's small group under the initiative of Heidi Klebaur, and our mission activities spearheaded by our seminarian Erich Kussman.   We now continue to move in this direction through our potential partnership with Lutheran Social Ministries.

Lutheran Social Ministers of New Jersey is planning to use the 2002 building for its Lutheran Senior Life (PACE) program.  This helps fixed income seniors receive the care they need while continuing to stay in their homes.  Our congregation will move into our previous sanctuary for worship and Sunday activities.   Holy Cross will continue to devote itself to God's Word.   It is my hope that freed of the overhead of a facility that sits largely empty most of time, we will have more resources to devote to spreading God's Word in Springfield.   More importantly, our devotion to those in need through our partnership with LSM and our continued ministry through our Christian Nursery School will help demonstrate the veracity of what we proclaim.   This is that the Gospel is for those far off and those near to God of every generation no matter how they are classified by the world or the world classifies them.   I am hopeful that the relationships we form through our service will help open people up to hear and take in God's Word which can help make a positive difference in their lives.   As we move into this new balance of the essential actions of Word and service, I ask for your prayers for its fruitfulness through the work of the Holy Spirit.

Be blessed
Pastor Knecht

Friday, April 27, 2018

Don't Do, Just Pray

I have a weakness that can get me into trouble from time to time.   When I see something broken, I want to fix it.   When I see a broken hinge or door knob, or  malfunctioning kitchen appliance or something wrong on a car engine, I impulsively dive in and start taking things apart.  The screws start flying off and parts are carelessly scattered on the floor or kitchen table as I hack away at a solution. Sometimes I fix things, and sometimes I make them worse. 

Over time I have learned that it is best to think things through and come up with a plan before diving in.  I usually make it worse when I don't pause and think about what to do before I do it.   So now I will watch a repair video on YouTube, or call computer savvy or mechanically inclined friend before starting out on a repair.   I will anticipate what tools I need and lay them out on the table,  I might even get a sandwich bag for the screws and take photos of each thing I take apart before I proceed.  Each pause I take increases the likelihood that I will fix the problem.


Pause to Succeed 

Something like what I am explaining is going on in the biblical book of Acts.   The book starts as Jesus is preparing to ascend to heaven.   It is a time of extreme disruption for the disciples of Jesus, they have seen Jesus arrested, tried, crucified and risen.   Now he starts to speak of ascending.   The disciples wanting to fix things and move out of the place of uncertainty ask. “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” Acts 1:6  

Jesus responds by telling them this knowledge is above their pay grade. After Jesus ascends the angels from the Easter tomb reappear to tell them to stop looking up, basically implying for them to get back to their appointed mission.  The mission as Jesus explained it to them is "you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.Acts 1:8 

The next thing the disciples do is gather together and pray.  That's it.  That's all. "All these (disciples) were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers. Acts 1:14.  Prayer in the book of Acts is an action of anticipation of the activity of God.  It is also a time to clear one's head and get ready for the next thing.  When something big is coming up it is the best thing we can do.  The pause of prayer increases the likelihood that we will fulfill what we are called to do. 

Active Waiting 

This is why when Luke writes in Acts about how the church works best he describes that They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Acts 2:42.   This means that the church fulfills its mission best when it pauses to listen to voice of God, hears the witnesses of the entire community, actively remembers what it is really all about, effectively gathers resources and rests up for the mission ahead. 

Unfortunately the church today does not do this enough.   We seem to be caught between the polarities of doing nothing or acting without thinking. Those who argue for action, discount the church's active waiting as doing nothing, while those who are afraid to act criticize the work of discernment as disruptive to the status quo, not realizing that the disruption is already going on.  Both fail to realize the true virtue of active waiting, which to arrive at a vision.


A Vision for Action 

We need vision in order to effectively act.   This is why the book of Acts is structured the way it is.  It sets forth a vision of what the church could be, one that welcomes those like eunuch from Ethiopia as well as a jailer from Greece, a church that stands for justice like when a young slave girl is exploited by her owners, while recognizing those in power are not monsters, but people.   This vision is continually adapted as God does new things and the church takes the time to worship, pray, reflect, think and plan for the next phase of the mission.

The completion of a vision signals actual readiness for action.  It is the necessary the pause before the initiation of action and it requires prayer.   Thoughts and prayers are important steps when used purposefully for casting a vision of how one should act.   This goes for finding a way through a personal crisis as well as for coming up with ways to go forward together in community.   We should never proceed with out a vision.   This is why it is important to pray before we do anything of consequence.  Thinking and praying seem to be in short supply in our world today, which is why we run from crisis to crisis.  So if someone criticizes you for pausing to pray, just let them know that you need to get it together first, and remember Where there is no vision, the people perish. Proverbs 29:18.   I encourage you to never forget the blessing of prayer it is usually the best thing we can do.

Be blessed,
Pastor Knecht


Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Easter: the Victory of Faith

For whatever is born of God conquers the world.  And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith! 1 John 5:4 

The Devil the World and Eroded Trust


If I would only look at the news,  I  would conclude simply that we live in a skeptical age. Seeing is believing we say, and even if we do see it, someone will question what it is we actually saw.   In our world today truth is said to be all in the numbers: poll numbers in politics, balance sheets in businesses (and yes sadly churches!) SAT or PARC scores in our schools.  Yet others will heap doubt upon those very numbers challenging that they don't really represent anything at all. 

Different camps will have different truths.  The savvy manipulator can go shopping for facts.  Institutions no longer have the credibility to mediate differing ideas and form consensus. The pressures of our current times have led us to doubt many things, if not most things.  If one goes with the flow of our culture there is little hope left in our world today.  Everything has an explanation, nothing is good or bad.  All is relative. Value neutral judgments rule from classroom to boardroom.  Unlike our ancestors who formed common ideas of virtue and vice, all has become utilitarian.   The left, right and center groups of culture are no different from each other in this regard.   All morality has devolved into self justification.   We are reliving the fall of Adam and Eve over and over again.  The serpents skeptical push rings in our ears, TV sets, and social media feeds.  If all become nihilists, the devil wins. 

The Real Alternative: Faith 


How different this is from what we are called to be by God in the witness of the Bible and through the moving of the Holy Spirit. We are reborn to be set apart from the wider world. It is not only OK to be different it is necessary.

Christians are called to be optimistic and hold certain virtues dearly.  Life matters from womb to tomb.  Each life has dignity,  We pay special attention to the lives of those beaten down by the world, and yes, even our enemies.  We are called to witness our faith in Christ, which as Christ modeled to us himself, means listening as much as speaking.  We hold that all are created good, even in the face of evil.

Our optimism is not the pie in the sky variety held used by marketers and prosperity preachers to get us to open our wallets or click the "buy it now" button.  It is the steadfast variety confirmed by scripture and witness, that the God who rescued Israel sent Jesus to redeem our world.  Our worldview starts with the premise that Christ and the good will ultimately triumph.  Indeed some will call us naive, but better to be pure of heart in the service of virtue and building things that last, than wise or worldly to merely satisfy our transient lusts.  When your life on earth is done, what side do you want to be on?  We indeed like Christ, may be called to pay a price, but that price will always be worth paying. The struggle may be long, arduous, and not all sugar coated, but the outcome is sure. Life will win! 

Easter Victory! 


How can we have the confidence to be optimistic in world so full or strife? Simple, listen to the Word of God that has upheld the faithful since Abraham.  In short, it says that God acts for good in our world at all times.  For us who follow Christ it specifically means that God sent his son born into this world just like we were so that we might be redeemed.  This redemption was done for us by Christ's sacrifice on the cross.  Three days after Jesus was put to death, he rose from the dead, destroying our last enemy and binding Satan underfoot.  This witness has been seen and handed down through the generations of the faithful.  Billions have experienced this truth in their lives and shared it with others. 

For us Christians, the watchword is faith,  the trust that God’s promises are actually for us.  This is grounded in the hope of resurrection. Our trust in Christ leads us to view our world differently than those who are skeptical or nihilistic.  For the faithful, the world is full of hope, as we see God working in all situations.  It is full of wonder, when the unexpected good comes along. It is realistic in the midst of crisis, but active in the midst of need.  It is humble when examining the potential of ourselves, but expectant when seeing God at work in the lives of others.  Our faith values love, justice and the intrinsic value of all life because we know that the only source of good is the God of life.  This we remember every Easter when we contemplate the empty tomb.

No, we have not conquered the old skeptical Adam within ourselves just yet, but by clinging to Christ we will not let the darker side of ourselves have supremacy.  So as Christians, we hold fast to our faith and the promise delivered at Easter.  May God strengthen your faith that you may always believe and have life in Christ's name. For he is risen indeed!

Blessed Easter 
Pastor Knecht 

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The Jersey Samaritan

One night after a long day at work, a lawyer in his mid 50's from Glen Ridge who has just seen the last of his three children go off to college, sits under a chandelier of an empty dining room table to contemplate where his life is going.   His divorce was finalized a few years ago, and his ex-wife now lives in San Diego.  He mulls over calling her but thinks better of it. 

He wonders if he should call the psychologist whom he has been seeing since the divorce, but he finds talking to him seems too much like staring a mirror for an hour with a hangover; it is painful, dreary, and most of all draining.  He then decides to call his eldest child, but she is in night class at law school and can't talk.  His youngest has enough problems of his own adjusting to college life, so talking to him would be all about helping him, and he was way too weak to do that now.  So he takes the cap off the bottle of Glenmorangie he got for Christmas and refills his his heavy tumbler two thirds of the way up the side of the glass and meditates if he should call his middle son. 

Their second child and first boy was a middle kid from the get go.   Having spent more time in the vice principal's office than in class, it was some sort of cosmic joke that this was the one who got religion.  He and his former wife did what his parents did; they had the kids baptized.  They went to church if there was no soccer game for the kids, or anything else fun to do on a Sunday,  More likely to attend Christmas than Easter, they did  have all three kids confirmed to please his in-laws.   His middle guy had fallen in with a campus ministry at school in Illinois, went on a mission trip to Ecuador, met a girl whom he just proposed to, and talks about working for Doctors Without Borders when he finishes med school. The lawyer thinks this is all a bit sketchy,  and that his son is naive. He is sure he will come around once life kicks him around a bit, but hey, at least he believes in something.

He presses the contact link in his I-Phone and his son picks up, "hey dad" he hears on the line.   "How ya doin" the man asks.  "OK, what's up" the son responds.  "What's it all about, son?"  "What?" says the son.  "This faith business you go on and on about."

"Well" the son says with a drawn out pause. "It's simple to think about but most times hard to do.  You're not religious, but you've been to church enough to get the message, Do you remember what the pastors would talk about in the sermons."   "Being a good person" said the father.  "Not really" the son answers,  "perhaps being a bit more specific might help"  "If I wanted therapy I'd see my shrink son!"   "Not gonna waste my time trying to fix you dad! But this is not rocket science, you know the answer"   "Love you neighbor as yourself" says the father.   "Just add God to the mix and you got it dad."   "Well how do you do it son?"  "Let me tell you a story" he replies.

"Suppose one evening a guy from our neighborhood takes his Range Rover and drives southeast on Bloomfield Avenue towards Newark to see a Devil's game.   As he pulls up to a traffic light.  A 20 year old Honda Civic stops suddenly in front of him without break lights and the guy runs into the back of it.  The man steps out of the Range Rover to inspect the damage.  Out of the Honda come three guys with baseball bats.   They beat the man senseless, take his watch, wallet and keys.  One jumps back into to the Honda and the other two drive off in the Range Rover for a joy ride. He is left alone bloody and broken on the street within an inch of his life"

"Across the intersection in a Toyota Camry sits a man in clerical color,  he's on his way to meet with a church about becoming their pastor.  Shocked, he assumes someone has a cell phone and will report it.  He can't be late; he knows that if he lands this position he will be able to help people. So he drives off.   Right after him a deaconess from a Pentecostal church drives by in a Dodge Caravan on her way to pick up a widow to take her to Bible Study.  Disturbed and scared at the sight of the man in the road she too drives by.  Thinking she is a woman alone and that someone must have reported it by now, she remembers to jot it down in prayer journal as she pulls up to the widow's house in Montclair.  As the light changes again, a 20 something black man in a hoodie runs across four lanes of traffic as he dials 911 and tells the operator about the man on the side of the road.  Swallowing his fear that the police will mistake him for one of the suspects he waits until help arrives."

"The police arrive. followed an ambulance. They perform first aid while carefully loading the man onto a backboard and stretcher to take the man to whatever they call UMDMJ Hospital these days.  The guy in the hoodie knows someone from his church who works in the hospital and asks about the John Doe. He convinces her to look the other way with HIPA and he recruits his church friends to sit vigil with the man until he regains consciousness.  After he starts to recover, the church helps him back into his house in Glen Ridge and makes sure he has food to eat and company in his recovery."

The son asked his father, "which person in the story loved God and his neighbor?" "The kid in the hoodie" says the dad.  The son, whose voice is breaking because he is overcome with love for his dad says "I know you're cynical old guy with a receding hair line and beer gut, but you will never find peace until you are more like the guy with hoodie.  This is really Jesus' story, and it's the only time in the bible he says 'go and do likewise' so you need to be that guy."

My rewrite of Luke 10:25-37 takes place in towns that I am familiar with but don't know anybody who lives in them.  As a white male in my mid 50's I chose the protagonists for obvious reasons.  You may criticize me for these choices, but I would encourage you to ask the question "who is my Samaritan?"  That is, the person who society is conditioning you to reflexively fear.  Until we understand our common humanity and our God given call to care for each other there will be no peace.  

Be blessed 
Pastor Knecht  


Friday, January 19, 2018

The Case for Sin


Sometimes the answer to our questions is just staring us in the face and we are unable to see it.  I think this is the case today in our society, church, culture and even personal relationships.  We are neglecting a central part of the Good News of Jesus Christ, the idea that we need to be forgiven in order to be free to live as God intended. 

What is distressing to me as one who has dedicated a life to the mission of the Gospel is how few Christians talk about sin anymore.   Some Christians teach a lot about being born again, but I am not hearing that one needs to come to grips with his or her sin first.  Other Christians teach a lot about inclusion, but I don't see much introspection about how our own sinfulness may be what  is dividing our communities.  Lot's of people are going to mega churches and following TV preachers to "find their best life now" or to get a "special blessing" and will sign up for seminars, buy books, and contribute money without doing the one thing that is actually necessary to actually turn their life around.  Then I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not hide my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”and you forgave the guilt of my sin. Psalms 32:5 (NRSV) 

Perhaps most distressingly, many of the right wingers and left wingers who are manning the barricades of the culture wars to right the wrongs of society are utterly blind to the fact that it is most often our own sin which obstructs us from building a more blessed and beloved community.  It is not the sins of those whom we dislike that we need to deal with first, it is the sins committed by ourselves.

Don't get me wrong people believe in sin, it just that we like to look for it in others, not ourselves.  This is the ultimate spiritual struggle and we are called to enter the fray.   For until we experience forgiveness we will not be free and we will not be healed.  Our created purpose is to be people at peace with God and the world and that can not occur until we are relieved of the burden of sin which weighs so closely.

The simple fact of the matter is that we cannot understand the true power of the Gospel unless we start to grasp what Christ has freed us from.  Lutherans traditionally have always talked about the big three, sin, death and the devil.  Notice which one is first.  Sin leads to death and it leads us to open the door to evil in our lives.  Confession and forgiveness is basically preventive medicine to help us be whole. 

This leads us to be forgiving of others, because when we begin to understand that we are not perfect we can better appreciate that our neighbors, co-workers, classmates and family members are not perfect either.   Two key outreach actions of the church in wider society are dependent on a healthy appreciation of our own sinfulness, evangelism and advocacy for the marginalized.  In order to effectively reach out in both ways we have to appreciate our own  history of sin, forgiveness, and new life, as well as our dependence on God to guide us when we do not know the way.

What we can never do is engage this process of confession and forgiveness with an attitude of complacency that we have somehow finished the job.  The world is still waiting for redemption as are we.  So we must daily go once more into the breach, confess our sin, and need for God's help and to hear the word of promise that we are forgiven through the person and work of Jesus Christ.

I understand our reluctance to talk about sin openly; it is certainly easier in the short run to avoid seeing that negative aspects of our lives.  Some  churches today don't really want to make people feel guilty by pointing out that its members are not perfect, so they avoid the topic.   However, the Word is clear While I kept silence, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long. Psalms 32:3 (NRSV)

Guilt doesn't come from talking about sin; it comes from unresolved sin.   The church that refuses to talk about sin is doomed experience it in soul crushing ways.  When I fist figured out that God loved me even though I have done things that I should not have, I felt peace.   I would never have experienced true peace for even a brief second if I had not talked to God about the truth of who I am.   So I am making the case that we talk about sin, most importantly our own, so we can know the power of Christ who has forgiven us.  So give me that old-time religion where sinners are forgiven and loved by a gracious God.

Be blessed

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

The Bible Challenge


I challenge you to read the Bible in 2018. Not parts of the Bible, the whole thing. “We must learn to know the Scriptures once again… as our fathers knew them. We must not grudge the time and work it takes. We must know the Scriptures first and foremost for the sake of our salvation. (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together)

To be a Christian is to be a person of the Word of God. We were called into a relationship with God through the Word. As we say in the Lutheran Church, it is the source and norm of our faith. It is the place we go to find out about how we should deal with the central issues of life. Contemporary culture may not hold the Bible in high esteem, but that is to its detriment; it need not be ours. We have the gifts of God given to us through the Word, we must not throw them away, or relegate them to dust covered bookshelves in the spare bedrooms of our lives. Our life and our salvation is the most precious gift we have, therefore the Word should have pride of place.

Yes, the Whole Enchilada!

While every person of faith has parts of the Bible they like better than others, it is important to read the whole story so that we may know the strengths and weaknesses of our faith. We can at times place ourselves in a spiritual feedback loop, which constantly confirms long held beliefs without question or introspection. This happens often with devotionals that only use individual verses, or churches that only follow a lectionary with narrow range of the wider body of Scripture. Focusing on pieces of Scripture to the exclusion of the whole story of salvation can stunt the growth of a faith life or leave one ill equipped when life brings new challenges. Holy Scripture does not consist of individual passages; it is a unit and it is intended to be used as such (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together)

Christians are People of the Book


To be a Christian is to be in relationship with God through Jesus Christ. We cannot do that without the reading of Scripture. “Consecutive reading of biblical books forces everyone… to put (oneself)… where God has acted once and for all for the salvation of (people).” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together) In other words, God’s story becomes our story, and yes vice versa our lives become part of God’s story too. Regular Bible reading changes who we are and that can be a blessing to others and even the entire world.

As one who reads history often I can tell you that so many of the blessings that we have today were inspired by those who steeped their entire lives in the biblical story. From things such as the abolition of slavery, women’s suffrage, child labor laws, to the freedom of individual conscience, the story of God’s salvation inspired those who fought for these things. “The magic is only in what books say, how they stitched the patches of the universe together into one garment for us.” (Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451) I challenge you to be a Bible person (not a thumper) one who lets God’s story breathe through their life. As you will read in the Gospels, Jesus lived in exactly this way; just look at how many times he quotes the Hebrew Scriptures.

How to Start

If you have not read the Bible regularly before, I encourage you to begin by reading 1-2 chapters continuously of the New Testament daily beginning with Mathew’s Gospel and ending with Revelation. By doing this, you will complete the New Testament in well under a year. As Christians, we read the rest of the Bible through the eyes of Christ, so this is the best place to start.

If you have some experience with the Bible, perhaps a chapter of the Old Testament read continuously, with a Psalm, and when you finished them, a chapter from Proverbs, followed by a chapter of the New Testament. You will not finish the Bible in a year, but will have read the majority of it.

To complete the Bible in a year you can google a plan, there are many available, or you might read 5-6 chapters of Scripture a day. It is important not to get bogged down when you get to those sections of Scripture that can seem monotonous, such as descriptions of the temple furnishings, genealogies, or obscure parts of the Torah. It is important therefore to have a mix of Old Testament and New Testament readings. It is also OK to skim these parts, as long as you aware of what you are leaving out. The goal is the familiarity with the big story of the Bible. I hope that this can be blessing for you in 2018 and you too can let the story of God breathe through your life.

Be blessed
Pastor Knecht